New York Music Daily

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Category: stoner music

Psychedelic Cumbia Legends Juaneco y Su Combo’s Feral First Two Albums Available for the First Time Outside Peru

In 2008, Barbes Records released the first collection of recordings by Juaneco y Su Combo ever issued outside of the strange and hitherto obscure band’s native Peru. Beginning in the late 60s, Juaneco y Su Combo were pioneers of a surreal, viscerally psychedelic blend of surf music, acid rock, Peruvian folk tunes, Colombian grooves and Cuban dances, which became known as chicha. The corn beverage whose name became attached to the music is sort of the Peruvian equivalent of malt liquor: the ghetto intoxicant of choice. Used as an adjective, it connotes exactly that: “ghetto.“ The chicha revolution in Peru mirrored what was happening at the same time with roots reggae in Jamaica or with turbo-folk in the Balkans: electric instruments and American rock influences transforming the local flavors. That, and planeloads of ganja.

Among the scores of amazing bands – Los Destellos, Los Mirlos, Los Wremblers and Los Diablos Rojos, among others -   playing chicha (or “cumbia sicodelica”) during its peak in the 70s, Juaneco y Su Combo were among the strangest and most feral. They dressed in Shipibo Indian costumes – a radical and considerably dangerous look to adopt, considering how brutally persecuted that population had been from the days of the conquistadors through the dictatorship of Juaneco‘s era. With keening Farfisa organ, tinny electric guitars and bass, the band mixed and ripped coastal Afro-Cuban chants, rustic mountain melodies, hypnotic jungle beats and spiky, glimmering, eerily reverberating surf riffage. Now, the Vital Record has made Juaneco y Su Combo’s first 1970 singles and ep, plus their 1972 full-length debut available for the first time ever outside of Peru as an eighteen-track anthology titled The Birth of Jungle Cumbia. These rare sides – remastered from collectible vinyl since the original masters were lost long ago – capture the band at their wildest, before any producer had the chance to tone down their sound.

As with most chicha bands, their songs are mostly instrumental: the band chants a chorus – usually about a girl, or partying, or local mythology – or somebody exclaims, “Tasty!” and that‘s about it. The occasional out-of-tune guitar, crunched chord or missed beat only adds to the raw spontaneity of the music, obviously recorded live and probably without any second takes. The top end of the Farfisa distorts a lot, and you can hear the engineer tweak levels or even the master volume on the fly.

The band’s de facto frontman, lead guitarist Noe Fachin, was a visionary tunesmith, but as a musician he wasn’t always the witch doctor he was reputed to be. If only he’d practiced more, or hadn’t gotten so stoned before he went into the studio for these sessions: one of the reasons Juaneco’s early material sounds so feral is because Fachin’s lead lines can be so unhinged, losing his grip on his incessant, signature hammer-ons and pull-offs, or wandering away from the beat. While he proved capable of playing with a lot more focus, ultimately we’ll never know what he could have become because on May 2, 1977, he and five of his bandmates were killed in the second horrible plane crash to hit their native Puycallpa in six years. Bandleader Juan Wong Popolizio- who wasn’t on that plane – had lost two family members earlier in an even more horrific crash on Christmas Eve, 1971, which in a cruel stroke of irony the band memorializes in one of the more subdued numbers here.

The first dozen tracks are the 1972 album. A vamping clip-clop groove illustrates the story of an Amazonian centaur woman being chased by the devil, who whips her for being promiscuous. Fachin makes primitive fuzzbox rock out of birdsong, then on the next track staggers his catchy minor-key vamps while Juaneco tells a “negra linda” how much fun his cumbia is. The Farfisa echoes Fachin’s lead lines in very close counterpoint for one of the album’s coolest effects on Me Voy Pa’ Trompeteros: “I’m heading up to oil country,” essentially, a shout-out to regional pride.

Bassist Walter Dominguez contributes a bouncy, cheery number about a pretty palm fruit vendor along with a dedication to his daughter Karina that’s part Byrds, part proto-salsa. This band listened very eclectically: there are echoes of the Ventures’ Out of Limits on Perdido en El Espacio and go-go music on Bailando con Juaneco. The bandleader plays roller-rink organ over a scampering cumbia beat on Rosita y Las Avispitas (Rosita and the Hornets), and also contributes the slow, haunting, bolero-tinged vocal number El Forastero (The Stranger), sung passionately by guiro player Wilindoro Cacique.

The material from the 1970 sessions is a lot more interesting, more melodically complex, closer to rock than electrified Peruvian folk or cumbia, and Fachin is on top of his game even if the boomy sonics aren’t up to the level of the album from two years later. The lead guitarist’s deviously matter-of-fact, spiraling solo slowly pans from left to right and back on Sirenita Enamorada (Mermaid in Love) and he adds a dark chromatic edge to his phrasing on Guajira Loretana. Juaneco’s La Incognita is the most Cuban-flavored track here, followed by the aptly spritely La Danza Del Yacuruna (Dance of the Evil Water Spirit).

The final two tracks comprise the band’s first single. Romance Shipibo (the b-side) is darkly psychedelic folk-rock with a clattering Peruvian groove. And while Fachin’s happy-go-lucky shuffle Aguita de Manantay might bring to mind a babbling brook, the tributary in question was actually fetid and disgusting. Since Juaneco lived nearby, this was a band joke. Oh yeah – you can dance to everything here, in fact you’re supposed to.

After the second plane crash, Juaneco regrouped with the remaining members, although their sound changed considerably. The band is still active in Peru, with Cacique still on lead vocals. Where can you hear this amazing stuff online? Ummm…there isn’t much of anything at the album page, but there are a couple of tracks at the publicists’ site.

Maqamfest 2014: Maybe This Year’s Best NYC Concert…Again

The theme for this year’s Maqamfest Friday night at the Financial District music mecca Alwan for the Arts was the influence of Arabic music beyond the Fertile Crescent. This year, festival creator, Alwan music impresario and trumpeter/santoorist Amir ElSaffar teamed up with the Center for Traditional Dance and Music to book an exhilarating evening that underscored the dynamic connection between music from the Middle East and eastern Europe.

As the night began, it was almost comical to see how the oldsters took over the venue’s lower-level auditorium while the all kids went two flights up to catch  rubabist Quraishi’s hypnotically pointillistic Afghan folk and fusion-tinged originals. Downstairs, Lebanese-born pianiast Tarek Yamani kicked off the night with a richly eclectic mix of brooding Middle Eastern themes and blues-infused bop. While Yamani didn’t deliberately seem to be working any kind of overtone series with the piano – it can be done, especially if you ride the pedal – he proved to be a magician with his chromatics and disqueting passing tones. Bassist Petros Klampanis supplied an elegant, terse, slowly strolling low end while drummer Colin Stranahan nimbly negoatiated Yamani’s sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring rhythmic shifts. The trio wove a tapestry of gorgeous chromatic glimmer through a couple of romping postbop numbers to a haunting, starkly direct piano arrangement of a theme by Said Darwish, considered to be the father of modern Middle Eastern classical music. The trickiest number in their set was the title track to Yamani’s album Ashur (the Assyrian god of death). Stranahan got the dubious assingment of carrying its cruelly challenging, almost peevish syncopation, but he ran with it and nailed it.

Next on the bill downstairs was luminous Balkan chanteuse Eva Salina, with her austere, meticulously nuanced, often heartwrenching original arrangements of Balkan and Romany folk songs and hits from the 60s. Upstairs, the kids were treated to a slinky, irresistibly fun set by Mitra Sumara, who played lush and frequently slashing Iranian pop and disco hits by Googoosh, Laila Farouhar and others, mostly from the early to mid 70s. Frontwoman Yvette Perez sang with a clear, resonant, sometimes seductive, sometimes angst-ridden tone: as she put it, all these songs were about impossible love. Keyboardist Jim Duffy fueled the most intense number of the set with his funereal organ lines, turning it into an undulating Persian take on Procol Harum. Bassist Sam Kulik held down a fat, often hypnotically minimalist low-end pulse beneath Bill Ruyle’s ringing, otherworldly santoor lines and guitarist Julian Maile’s insistent riffage, propelled by a swaying twin-percussion dancefloor groove. They ended the set with a biting, funky Zia Atabi number from southern Iran. At this point, the sounds of the band had filtered down to the lower level and much of the older crowd had filtered up to see what they were missing.

Sazet Band followed in the upstairs space. The Bronx-based crew are a huge attraction in the expat Romany community and took the energy a notch  higher. As their set began, with the band’s alto sax/clarinet frontline firing off machinegun riffage over an explosive twin-drum dance beat and a keyboardist playing generic fusion reharmonizations of Balkan chords through a cheesy synthesizer patch, was this going to turn out to be Macedonian Van Halen? As it turned out, no. Alto saxophonist Romeo Kurtali is a protege of Bulgarian legend Yuri Yunakov, and played with a similarly fluid, maybe even more breathtakingly fast attack than his mentor while clarinetist Sal Mamudoski made an even more aggressive foil with his raw, aching, fire-and-brimstone crescendos. Meanwhile, a technical malfunction had taken the synth completely out of the mix: it wasn’t misssed. This reduced the band to just the horns and the drums, taking the sound back in time thirty years or more as they raced through whirlwinds of chromatically bristling doublestops, trills and microtones. Then they brought up a couple of guys to sing. By now, dancelines had formed along the side and in the back, and those who weren’t on their feet were bopping in their seats.

Downstairs, the evening wound up on a historically rich note with a set by the Alwan Ensemble, an all-star lineup of some of the foremost musicians in the New York Arabic diaspora. Their purpose – other than hanging out and drinking tea and other stuff, as ElSaffar grinningly alluded – is to trace the connections between classic Arabic sounds from Syria, Egypt and Iraq. ElSaffar began on santoor, later switched to trumpet and often played both in the same song, along with Zikrayat violinist Samy Abu Shumays, Zafer Tawil on qanun, Georges Ziadeh on oud and a couple of percussionists. Everybody got to to solo or start a number with an expansive, pensive taqsim, and everybody sang, including the audience. The group started matter-of-factly with a rustic Syrian pastorale, followed by a haunting, stately Iraqi suite of sorts told from the point of view of a guy whose girlfriend/dalliance leaves town with her caravan, the stricken narrator pondering whether or not to implore the leader to turn the entourage around and come back to town. Tawil sang a moody Zakariya Ahmad song originally done by legendary 1950s Egyptian chanteuse Laila Mourad; they closed with another Ahmad song from the catalog of Egyptian legend Um Kulthumm, a singalong in every sense of the word from the title to how the group and the crowd brought it to life, ending the show on a high note.

Maqamfest only comes around once a year, but the artists play around town frequently. The Alwan Ensemble make the venue their home base and have a long-awaited debut album due out later this spring; watch this space for news of an album release show.

A Mixed Bag of Oh Sees Singles

Thee Oh Sees‘ latest singles collection is closer to the Hussy‘s surrealistic, noisy garage-punk stomp than the Black Angels‘ post-Syd Barrett narcoscapes  Those expecting the ever-present menace of Thee Oh Sees’ Putrifiers II album may find this collection lightweight, although it’s a lot more diverse. It takes awhile to get going, but it’s back-loaded with a mighty payoff at the end. The first couple of tracks don’t have much going on and what’s there isn’t very tight. But then they hit a vein with the third, Crushed Grass: simple Nick Knox-style drums and Petey Dammit’s catchy, boomy minor-key bassline anchoring John Dwyer’s unhinged, skronky guitar.

Burning Spear is not a reggae song – with its jaggedly squalling experimental postpunk edge, it sounds like a lo-fi Wire outtake from Chairs Missing. What You Need opens with a djeridoo-like feedback drone that kicks off the catchy hammer-on bass hook that the band runs all the way through the end of the song. Wait Let’s Go loops a catchy acoustic noir pop riff behind guy/girl vocals, while Always Flying juxtaposes insistent postpunk guitar against Brigid Dawson’s woozy, noisy keys. And Devil Again shuffles along with a punk blues edge enhanced by oldschool organ – it’s the most Hussy-like track here.

But all that pales by comparison to the sprawling, reverb-fueled live tracks that close the collection. The band jams out Block of Ice Eagle and turns it into their Psychotic Reaction, a good segue with Destroyed Fortress/No Spell. That one goes on for a mammoth dozen minutes or so, waves of up/down dynamics shifting between a ringing, echoey one-chord vamp, a shuffling interlude pulsing along on octaves from the bass, and a majestic, anthemic garage rock chorus that they feel their way out of gingerly one last time, then fade the song out with surprising elegance. “We’re going to Buffalo tomorrow, I don’t know what the fuck is up with that,” Dwyer announces afterward.What is up with that is that the band is currently on hiatus, but not broken up – this bunch of tracks is obviously intended to keep the party faithful going until it’s time for another tour.

Entrancing Dubwise Grooves from Tarana

Atmospheric Indian-influenced band Tarana‘s latest release The Laden Soul Desires the Sun  – streaming all the way through at Soundcloud - is a pair of psychedelic trombone-and-percussion grooves that are vastly more lush and entrancing than you would expect from just those instruments. The percussionist is the reliably eclectic Ravish Momin; the trombonist is the increasingly ubiquitous Rick Parker, whose resonant lines here echo his work in the brilliant twin-trombone dub band Super Hi-Fi. There are also pensive, wordless vocals and spare synth effects on these nonchalantly brooding dubwise tracks. The first is a six minute-plus groove whose swirls and squiggles quickly give way to a brooding minor-key march fueled by Parker’s deadpan but scowlingly direct trombone, with umpteeen hypnotic dynamic shifts. The second is about nine minutes of allusive, moody minimalism, a slow slinky groove that Parker interrupts with a wicked, reggae-tinged riff…and then they take it doublespeed, but with an even more stripped-down trance feel. Turn on, tune in, do what you have to do: kick back and let this stuff take you to a better place.

Traveling Circle Escape from Black Cloud by the Skin of Their Teeth

Brooklyn trio Traveling Circle set a brooding, ominous mood and maintain it all the way through their album Escape from Black Cloud. Their signature sound is dark, echoey, hypnotic stoner bluespunk. Frontman Dylan Maiden’s high lonesome vocals linger and echo, almost in the background, while his similarly lingering, reverberating, minimalist blues-infused guitar rings out over tersely hypnotic rhythms. It’s so far from the blues that it could be from, say, Poland, yet the framework for the band’s simple, deceptively catchy guitar riffs is the old-fashioned minor-key blues scale. The album – most of which is up at Soundcloud – is almost like one long song, a theme and relatively brief variations. The simple yet brutal directness of Joy Division’s The Only Mistake could be one possible prototype for many of these songs.

The opening track, Higher, establishes the pensive atmosphere with a long vamp, followed by The Candlelight Sway, which adds fuzztone guitar over Josh Schultz’s steady, punching drums. Newborn Shadow starts out with distantly menacing, bell-like guitar, then the drums take the riff halfspeed. Likewise, Green Spider morphs from ominous to distortedly snarling and then back again.

Closer is another one-chord jam with up/down dynamics, segueing into The Willow Tree Fair, with its contrasting watery and buzzing guitar lines over Charlie Freeman’s ridiculously simple, darkly catchy bassline. Rock This Feeling picks up the pace – it could be a funk tune if the rhythm wasn’t so four-on-the-floor. Fountains of Time takes the ambience back to uneasy, followed by Conduit Is Closing with its sirening and hissing reverb effects behind the hypnotic guitar and bass. The album ends with Tears from the Soul, building to a shivery peak with distant echoes of Bauhaus. One suspect that the best way to appreciate these guys is live in a boomy room where the guitar and drums can really throw off some otherworldly sonics.

Edgy, Brilliantly Original, Heavy Psychedelic Sounds from Eidetic Seeing

Brooklyn Band Eidetic Seeing play a smartly tuneful, unpredictable, defiantly original mix of noise-rock, third-generation post-Sabbath stoner metal and postrock, veering from a focused Mogwai attack to sunbaked, fuzztone Kyuss riffage, to uneasy interludes that echo Goo-era Sonic Youth. Their new second album, Against Nature, is angry and dirty, haphazard but intricate, packed with catchy hooks and abrasive noise. Tempos shift and unwind as guitarist Sean Forlenza and bassist Danilo Randjic-Coleman plunge from restless jangle to a roar over the artful and richly dynamic, even understated drumming of Paul Feitzinger. His individualistic, coloristic groove is one of this band’s most instantly distinguishing features, with a heavy, echoing snare sound in contrast to his nimble attack on the kick drum and intricate cymbal work. The whole album is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

Dial up the opening instrumental, A Snake Whose Years Are Long and name that riff: it’s something iconic from the 80s or 90s. The band quickly takes it from there to an uneasily jangling, slashing pulse, then shifts into a fuzztone rumble, then back and forth with shrieking SY-ish guitar and up-and-down dynamics. Like the rest of the tracks here, it’s a long one, but because it’s so unpredictable it never loses your interest. White Flight morphs from atmospherics to a bolero beat to an undulating stoner groove with all kinds of tempo and timbre shifts, from early 70s bluesmetal to squalling noiserock.

The sarcastically titled Froleuse works the tension between fuzztone riff-rock and lingering, apprehensive, 80s-tinged lo-fi sonics, acidic chords, endless metric trickery and finally a screamed, anguished hardcore outro. Ashplant Blues is sort of their Electric Funeral, a ten-minute epic that begins as a macabre, chromatically-charged dirge that once again gets abrasively noisy, then morphs into janglerock, then leaps around before falling away into atmospherics. The longest and final track is K2, which seems to be an account of murder high above the treeline. Again, it opens as a dirge, the most anthemic thing here. The way Feitzinger keeps the menacing groove going even as the guitar and bass fuzz out and recede toward the horizon is one of the album’s high points. There’s so much more going on in these songs; this is just the Cliff Note version. This is one of the most consistently original and interesting albums of 2013. You can catch Eidetic Seeing (the band name means photographic memory) on January 23 at Grand Victory in Williamsburg.

Uncategorizable, Deliciously Noisy Stuff from Slobber Pup

Power  trio Slobber Pup‘s new album Black Aces will clear a room fast. It’s not for people who like their music in concise, hummable, self-contained verses and choruses. This ensemble of downtown outsider-jazz types inhabits the deliciously abrasive netherland somewhere between noise-rock, postrock, metal and jazz. Their music is ugly, assaultive and long-winded, but in an intriguing way. On one hand, their album Black Aces sounds like one long jam where everybody’s soloing at once; on the other, everybody’s on the same page rhythmically, and they get out of each others’ way when a shift in the dynamics calls for it. The band’s secret weapon is frontman Jamie Saft’s organ, which swells and swirls and provides a stygian backdrop as well as a sometimes unexpectedly melodic center for banks of distorted synths, Balasz Pandi’s tumbling drums and Trevor Dunn’s growling, pitchblende bass, with noisy bluesmetal guitar that usually takes centerstage. Those hearing this for the first time might be surprised to discover that’s Joe Morris on guitar playing all those unhinged, bluesy leads: it’s quite a change from the resolute, defiantly atonal approach that defined his style for many years. Although he does revert to that style from place to place here as well.

The album is best appreciated as a whole. The practically half-hour opening “track,” Accuser, comes across as something akin to Deep Purple on speedy acid. Morris finally leaves the blues scale for some jagged noise, then veers between the two styles over the often jarring wash of liquid organ and buzzing, acidic synth, roaring, gritty bass and careening but steady drums. The organ hits a menacing tritone and leads the band into an inchoate horror movie theme about thirteen minutes in; later on, Dunn tries to take everybody in a Floydian, anthemic direction but eventually descends into the maelstrom around him. They go out sudddenly with a gentle cymbal hit. Some might find this self-indulgent to the extreme, but as a menacing, defiantly noisy mood piece, it’s hard to resist.

Morris uses a more metalish, sustained tone on Basalt, the bass trying to push it toward Slipknot territory, then everybody drops out, leaving Morris to linger by himself. His off-center, dancing single-note lines and creepy, unsteadily bending microtonal fretless guitar chords are the high point of the title track, while Suffrage, a slower, slinkier and heavier groove, features unexpectedly tuneful, bluesy organ juxtaposed with Morris’ gleeful Friday the 13th chord-chopping. The final segment, Taint of Satan maxes out the contrast between the dirgey rhythm and Morris’ frenetic axe-murderer attack on his strings. Slobber Pup are at Shapeshifter Lab on Dec 13 at around 10 for Rare Noise Records night; cover is $15.

Classic 60s Psychedelic British Rock Sounds from New Electric Ride

New Electric Ride play catchy psychedelic songs that offer a wink and a nod to the 1965-70 British rock scene, more loving homage and period-perfect evocation than parody. Their debut album is streaming at their Bandcamp page. Among American bands emulating those styles with a similarly faithful, goodnatured tunefulness, Love Camp 7 come to mind.

The opening track, Mr. Bumblebee, has spot-on, trad 60s production values – trebly guitar, punchy/trebly melodic bass, a slow Byrdsy jangle groove with tremolo organ on the chorus. It’s sort of a less dense, less satirical take on XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear retro-psychedelic project. “Never let them say that you don’t work hard, never let them say you don’t go to a bar????”

Bury a Mule sounds like it could have been an Abbey Road outtake if the Beatles had an extra soul/blues number left over from the Let It Be session. Ditto Lovers, which riffs on a purloined Beatles riff and hints at a familiar Abbey Road vamp that never arrives. In Chains reaches for a Spencer Davis Group/Vanilla Fudge organ soul groove, fueled by the bass and then an absolutely irresistibly watery, Leslie-speaker guitar solo. The final track here, Stone for Stone is the most modern-sounding one – if you buy the proposition that 1970 is modern – pairing pensive, echoey guitar with Rhodes piano, rising to an unexpectedly soaring chorus evocative of early Nektar (that band again – far more influential now than in their 70s prime!).

New Electric Ride’s latest single, All Who You Know, continues in an auspiciously heavier but also quirkier vein.

Richly Hypnotic, Unique Middle Eastern Psychedelic Grooves from Painted Caves

Milwaukee band Painted Caves play Middle Eastern-influenced psychedelic grooves that more or less follow the Silk Road in reverse, back toward India. Their signature sound sets droll deadpan vocals over a hypnotic, clattering rhythm, a web of acoustic Middle Eastern instruments mingling with layers of guitar.  It’s safe to say that there is no group anywhere in the world who sound anything like them. The obvious comparison is New York kitchen-sink instrumentalists Tribecastan, although Painted Caves’ songs rock a lot harder, yet are also more hypnotic. Their excellent debut album is streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page.

The first song, Ballad of the Office Worker slinks along over a wry faux-mechanical, clattering rhythm lit up by incisive oud and a wry Hendrix quote from the guitar. “It’s time we sell, we spend our time in hell, and spend your time in hell,” frontman/guitarist Ali Lubbad intones. Blood in the Water jams out a distantly ominous vamp over a tricky beat with qanun along with the lingering layers of guitar. The band’s namesake song, with its spiky layers of oud, wah guitar and flute, sounds like Tribecastan playing a classic Greek psychedelic rock song from the 60s – or like Trio Bel Canto covering Tribecastan if those guys had been contemporaties, an idea that isn’t as farfetched as it might seem.

Half-Human slowly and very subtly morphs from a clip-clop Malian-style duskcore groove into a reggae song, with a simple but spot-on anti-materialist message. As with a lot of these songs, it’s hard to keep track of the instruments – is that a sitar or a sarod? A guitar pedal? A steel pan, or the qanun again? – and who’s playing what. The next track is The Ocean, six hazy minutes of Balinese gamelan rock with Middle Eastern tinges that works a series of artful rises and falls as it winds out, with ornamentation that ranges from throat-singing, to reverb guitar and layers of shadowy amp noise.

The best song on the album is the eerie, chromatically-charged Morse Code. It’s amazing what this band can do with what’s essentially a one-chord jam, eventually winding down to a quietly creepy multitracked oud interlude that the guitar picks up with a slow-mo stoner surf vibe. Peace Bear looks backwards through freak-folk, the Beatles and minimalist Indian Baul trance music. The album’s closing track is part Bollywood, part desert blues. Won’t it be funny someday when music like this is totally mainstream, while straight-up four-on-the-floor rock songs are considered quaint and esoteric?

Period-Perfect Early 70s Psychedelic Art-Rock from Wind

Norwegian retro psychedelic rock trio Wind – guitarist Martin van Houtum, bassist Fredrik Severin and drummer Filip Ramberg – have a period-perfect early 1970s style 10″ vinyl ep (also available digitally) out this year, mistitlted Sleep. Much as both the songs on it drift slowly and clock in at about ten minutes apiece, there’s nothing sleepy about the constantly shifting mix of guitar, bass and drums. The obvious reference point is Nektar, the legendary British psychedelic art-rockers who made Germany their home base throughout the 70s and have regrouped memorably in recent years.  The guitar here has the same lingering, thoughtful, sometimes jazz-tinged variations on basic chords that Nektar’s Roye Albrighton used so memorably, especially in that band’s early days. There’s plenty of jamming going on as well, a tightly woven interplay with plenty of close listening between band members and the kind of supportive chemistry that comes from playing a lot of live shows together.

The first song, Cathedral, is a diptych. Otherworldly vocal harmonies – in English – float slowly over stately guitar chords, bass rising elegantly at the end of the verse, drums filling out the sound with a similarly understated, hypnotic tastefulness. A long suspenseful jam eventually fades and is replaced by washes of string synth, then the band take their time coming in over the horizon  and hit a big, pummeling crescendo over the drums’ undulating groove.

The second song, Throwing Stones (an original, not the Grateful Dead classic) builds from variations on a bell-like riff that evokes Nektar’s Remember the Future over distant, muted drums and incisively rising bass. They bring the guitar up, add the orchestral textures of what could be a mellotron, allude to both Sabbath’s Paraonid and the Dead’s Dark Star, building to a mighty, epic peak as the drums rumble. And then the bass gets to carry the song, with a dark, growling tone. Fans of classic 70s psychedelia from Floyd on out will love this stuff.


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